Pros, Cons of Setting Your Own Price

Posted on 3/17/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Moodboardunlimited's "You Set The Price" strategy is intriguing. The tremendous advantage is that the company will never lose a customer due to price, and the offer should attract new customers. However, there are at least three significant disadvantages.

1.  The strategy only offers customers images of secondary quality. The seller doesn't want to give away its top-quality images.

2.  Customers have no idea what the seller thinks the images are worth, or the amount the company would like to receive.

3.  It seems unlikely this strategy will generate much revenue.

However, with some modifications I believe the site could:

1. Give customers access to all the high-quality images in the moodboard collection.

2. Grow revenue for the moodboard collection as a whole.


The first step would be to provide customers with a simple schedule of list prices for various types of usage. The underlying principle: tell customers what the seller thinks each image is worth based on usage.

The customer can then choose the list price or set his own. If the list price seems fair, the customer can complete the transaction and download the file immediately.

If the customer chooses the "Set Your Own Price" option, he is asked to describe the intended use and submit a price offer. The customer is told he will receive notification within 24 hours as to whether his offer is approved or rejected. (If he needs a faster response, give him a number to call.) When the offer is approved, the customer can complete the transaction and download the image.


1. When the buyer knows what the seller wants for a particular usage, he is unlikely to make an extremely low counter offer.

2. The seller understands how the image will be used and is able to base price on the value received by the customer. By understanding usage and customer resistance to certain prices, the seller can adjust prices in a short period of time.

3. When a high percentage of buyers object to the price for a particular type of usage, it may indicate the list price should be lowered. A lack of objections to certain list prices may indicate they could be raised slightly.

4. The seller can easily track types of usages and adjust prices based on specific usages rather than make across-the-board adjustments.

5. If the buyer's price for a certain described use is lower than the seller thinks is reasonable, the seller can counteroffer rather than flatly rejecting the buyer's offer.

6. The seller always has the option of discounting. The seller may have a standard (undisclosed to the public) policy of automatically approving any request for less than 20% off the list price. That way, buyers who go to the trouble of describing their need receive some price break and feel they have won the negotiation. This also allows for adjustments when a buyer's usage does not precisely fit the price list description.

7. By having a communication with the buyer, the seller can determine if new categories of use should be added to the list, or whether the description of a particular category needs modification.

8. Using this system, the seller can easily establish separate prices appropriate to different countries and economies.

9. Buyers who always offer extremely low bids relative to the intended use may not be customers worth having. This strategy provides a mechanism for getting rid of such buyers. However, I am reminded of a story about Nordstum's customer return policy. A customer brought in four very used tires and said he wanted a refund. Nordstum's refunded the amount, although the customer had no receipt and the store had never sold tires. Sometimes, taking a few unreasonable losses can provide huge PR value.

If you think this strategy is unworkable, please comment.

Copyright © 2008 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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